man and woman putting coin in piggy bank

Is your relationship bank account in credit?

The concept explained and why you should stay in the black

Written by Dr. Shaun Ridley FAIM
2 minute read
man and woman putting coin in piggy bank

The Relationship Bank Account (RBA) is a simple concept. Just think of it in the same way as you think about any other bank account. Deposits are made, interest paid, occasionally withdrawals have to be made. If you invest for long enough, substantial assets are accumulated and long term investments pay off.

The only real difference is the currency traded. RBA currency comes in the form of positive or negative interpersonal connections with each individual you interact with during the day.

Let’s start with the love of your life to illustrate how this works. Presumably you have dozens of occasions during each day when you have positive connections with this person. Over time, you build significant amounts of credit in your RBA with this person. Healthy RBAs build security, trust and a safety net for when you mess up. Have you ever noticed how quickly the old married couple forgive each other? That’s because they have a lifetime of credit in their RBAs.

Now let’s switch to your work colleagues. With many, you’ll have accumulated substantial credit through a number of positive interactions. While with others, it may seem even the most minor comment stirs anger and suspicion. Clearly with this latter group, your RBA is overdrawn and you have a debt crisis.

It is somewhat bewildering to understand why some senior executives believe they can treat their staff like dirt all year, then switch on the charm when they want something.

Your chances of bringing about change with this group when your RBA is overdrawn are incredibly low, yet many try anyway.

When the staff react negatively to this charm offensive, the senior team are surprised, even angered. Without your RBA being in credit, any change will be difficult and treated with mistrust.

One small step in the next 24 hours

Treat everyone with respect regardless of your level, their level or the nature of your reporting relationship. Acknowledge every employee you walk past. Write every email communication as though you are speaking to a trusted and valued colleague.

There are a number of “absolutes” in the previous three sentences, suggesting there is no escape and no forgiveness for missing an interaction or individual. Unfortunately that’s a fact of life. Forgiveness is only possible when your RBA is in credit and someone can genuinely say “that was out of character for that person, my past experience with them has been very different - something must be amiss”.

So, make a conscious effort to acknowledge the people you work with. It doesn’t have to be a full conversation, just a smile or nod of the head will do at this early stage. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is and also how positively others will respond.